The Dagger will be previewing this week's marquee conference tournaments. Here's our look at the ACC tournament:
Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament
Dates: March 10-14
Site: Greensboro, N.C. (Greensboro Coliseum)
Top four seeds: 1. Virginia 2. Duke 3. Notre Dame 4. Louisville
Draw: Click here
Best draw: Virginia. The reward for winning the ACC title is the most favorable quarterfinal opponent. While Clemson and Florida State are both competent, they're also not as dangerous as North Carolina, NC State, Miami or maybe even Pittsburgh. The opposition for the Cavs gets far tougher from there, but at least they avoid a potential rematch with Duke until the ACC title game.
Worst draw: North Carolina. Falling out of the top four in the ACC is damaging because it means the path to an tournament title is winning four games in four days. The Tar Heels should make short work of Boston College or Georgia Tech in their opening game, but then the gauntlet begins in earnest with a quarterfinal against Louisville and a likely semifinal against Virginia.
Three players to watch:
• Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke — The national player of the year contender has been dominant offensively, though his free throw shooting late in close games is a concern.
• Jerian Grant, G, Notre Dame — He has returned from the suspension that cost him the second half of last season to average 16.8 points and a league-best 6.7 assists.
• Terry Rozier, G, Louisville — On a Louisville team that lacked scoring punch even with Chris Jones, Rozier has to provide perimeter points every night.
Bubble implications: Five ACC teams are likely to receive high seeds in the NCAA tournament and NC State is a near lock to sneak into the field thanks to its array of marquee wins. The team with the most to play for is Miami, which can't afford an opening-game loss to either Virginia Tech or Wake Forest and could really use a quarterfinal victory over Notre Dame to secure its NCAA tournament bid. The Hurricanes have a few bad losses and only two RPI top 50 wins, though one of those is a big one at Duke by 16 points.
Projected champ: Any of the top five seeds are capable of beating one another, but the team that's playing the best right now is Duke. The Blue Devils haven't lost since January and own at least one victory this season over the other four contenders. Two-time defending ACC champion Virginia is definitely a threat, but the Cavaliers don't know if they'll have second-leading scorer Justin Anderson back from an appendectomy in time to play this week. His absence leaves Virginia a wing scorer short and also robs the Cavs of one of their top perimeter defenders.
- - - - - - -